Our Gathering of bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents held in Perth, in beautiful Scotland, was held from 12-14 May. Parents from Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, South Africa and Australia came to the event, and many spent the first evening at a social drop in group to get to know each other and there was also a supportive meeting for first-timers attending the weekend - to help new parents get orientated and make the most of the 2 days together.
During our weekend together we heard a moving talk by Stewart Wilson, CEO of Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland. A bereaved father himself, he spoke about all his family and particularly his eldest daughter Anna who was born with a rare genetic disorder - 'crie de chat' syndrome - and sadly died when she a few days from her 17th birthday. Stewart's incredible honesty about family life with Anna and inspiring account of her life, death and the impact her short life has had on both him and his family was both heart-rending and inspiring to hear.
The first supportive overnight retreat for adult bereaved siblings was held last month in Birmingham. 25 siblings gathered together to spend time talking, socialising and sharing their stories with each other.
Emma, was one of the bereaved siblings who was also organising the weekend. She wrote: "Just spent a wonderful weekend with fellow siblings. It was so lovely to hear about everyone's special brothers or sisters. We took part in lots of different discussion groups, craft and creative writing groups. The memory candle jars we decorated were lit on the Saturday evening outside on a big tree. On Sunday some enjoyed going out on the lake in the boat. Thank you to everyone who attended for making it such a special weekend".
Other feedback from the weekend included:
"The biggest thing I took from the weekend - being in a safe place, surrounded by others who understand the grief you are going through and being able to identify with each other about the isolation and frustrations that grief brings.
While I found the weekend tough, as it really brought home that you have indeed lost someone (i’m quite good at denial) it was incredibly healing. The sessions were all extremely well thought out and relaxed. I was terrified about going but there was absolutely no need. The weekend really helped me on my way to acceptance and moving forwards, and I really really hope that i can come again"
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Today saw the launch of The Compassionate Friends' Users Survey
The Compassionate Friends' (TCF) Board of Trustees welcomes feedback and suggestions from anyone who has engaged with any aspect of TCF activities either face-to-face or online. TCF is constantly evolving and hearing from people who have experience of our services helps the organisation to develop and be responsive to the requirements of bereaved parents, grandparents and siblings.
So, the Trustees have developed a short survey for anyone who has used our support and services. The questionnaire can be filled in any time you like and as many times as you like. The questions are quite general in order to allow you to comment on any aspect of TCF and make suggestions about what TCF might be able to do in the future.
The Compassionate Friends retreat weekend for parents and siblings in early bereavement welcomed 62 parents and 3 siblings - despite some tussles with snow - to Willersley Castle Hotel in Derbyshire.
We began our weekend with tea, cakes, wine and small groups getting to know each other and our children and siblings. After dinner we watched the short film 'Say Their Name" introduced by Jimmy and Jane, the filmmakers.
Day 2 and 3 of the retreat saw discussion groups on a range of topics, including coping with strong emotions, caring for surviving siblings, self care, managing PTSD, dealing with social situations, sudden death, the death of a child through prolonged illness, death as a result of substance misuse, a group especially for bereaved fathers, and one discussing grieving as a couple, as well as many more.
What a wonderful privilege to meet such lovely people... thank you to all who came to our few days together and to those volunteers giving their time to make the weekend happen. We hope you found comfort and support by being together, sharing your stories and your beloved children. We hope you made new friends and connections to help and sustain you as you navigate this new life without your sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.
Maria Ahern, TCF's new Chair of Trustees, has written a piece about the retreat weekend in which she was participating and also supporting others.
The things people say to a bereaved parent......
How do you do it? Meeting other bereaved parents. Doesn't it remind you?
I've just spent the weekend in a beautiful hotel nestled deep in the Derbyshire Dales. There was lovely food, a swimming pool, bracing walks. You name it. Every box ticked.